Jesus’ skin colour shouldn’t matter, honestly, I wish it didn’t matter, but due to the world we live in, it does. So, let’s get problematic…
Jesus was not white. That’s it. He has been represented and drawn as white to uphold white supremacy. He was born in Bethlehem, he was a Nazarene, I know the boundaries have changed but they were not in Western Europe or North America. I mean I can understand if Jesus is seen as light skin or olive, but I have seen some drawings and my man is looking pale. So, pale, like his country wasn’t sunny, he’s so pale that they don’t make his shade in foundation. So, pale it looks like he would burn if he stepped out in the sun.
What brought this topic about? AJ+ did a video about skin bleaching in Ghana, a woman said that “If you are going to church and on the way, you see a white man, you can go home because you have seen God”. I really had to pause at that point, stop, let it soak in like seasoning. People in colonised countries were forced to believe that the white man is the closest thing to God. I didn’t even know where to begin in unpacking that statement.
Small small history lesson – very brief and simplified
The conception of white supremacy emerged in the 17th century (in Europe), that has its roots in scientific racism. In the 17th Century, there was a transformation in society due to the enlightenment period and people began to question the divinity of God. Basically, causing the beginning of the ending of absolute monarchy. Since they discovered that the world was no longer flat, they decided to explore. Instead of finding uninhabited land they reached populated places that they have never heard of. So, in order to justify the genocide and stealing their land, they had to create a social hierarchy.
Let us not get it twisted not every white person was considered white enough to be white. The Irish, Italians, Greek etc… were usually excluded from this narrative of being white. The pinnacle of white was a WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant). When the marginalised groups were becoming too chummy and forming solidarity, they allowed other types of whites to climb the social hierarchy, to deter them from revolting.
So, what does Jesus have to do with this?
There are many Christians around the world who adore the image of God and find much solace in being able to see what he would have looked like. Yet there are many who used this image as a weapon in order to oppress and dominate. People equate white supremacy to Christianity which is not true. It was really about white washing every institution. We are now living in the consequences of that foolishness.
Jesus was from the colonized and oppressed people, not from the dominant imperial elite– that would have been Pontius Pilate. How Jesus ended up looking like the coloniser is a bit mad still. The headquarters of the Roman Catholic church is in Vatican City. They were able to dictate exactly how Jesus was depicted. So they drew him in their own image.
White supremacy is a poison that people at the time were willing to use any tool to affirm their superiority. Not to excuse the behaviour of some Christians, because some were really praising God on top of slave dungeons.
Jesus and colourism
Jesus had to be white, in order for the white people to justify why they were superior. To be the opposite of what is right, is apparently black, this is why the darkest skinned people in EVERY ethnicity suffer. White people don’t even have to tell us our skin colour is bad (some still do though) for people to reach for the bleaching cream, stay of out the sun or mock darker people. It has been internalised.
White people equated themselves to being God not being Christ-like. They became the god (see where Hitler got his inspiration from). When the Egyptians were invaded they broke all the noses off the sculptures to erase the blackness. White people literally redrew Egyptians on the hieroglyphics and pictures as whiter. With the benefit of hindsight, I can assume that atrocities may not have occurred if Jesus was portrayed as the Middle Eastern man that he was.
This is why the skin colour of Jesus matters, how could the Europeans justify the genocide of the natives if Jesus was looking more like the natives than them?
Would white people have found another way to colonise and massacre people without using White Jesus? Maybe… Nonetheless, equating whiteness to God is something that I do not think we will see the end of in my lifetime.
People have their various different reasons for not believing in God. What saddens me the most is that people turn away from God and rebuke his name because of the atrocities that people did in his name. I do not believe God co-signed on this ‘White man’s burden’ narrative.
To conclude, white Jesus is a social construct made up by people who want to justify their prejudice, hate and discrimination through religious doctrine.
Leonie Mills TWN Editor @_LeonieMills